To Live in This World (2002)
3 Poems of Mary Oliver
Commissioned by Music in the Vineyards.
Texts: Mary Oliver
Soprano and string quartet
Premiere: August 17, 2002 at Clos Pegase Winery, Calistoga, CA by Karen Clift, soprano, Frank Almond and Dawn Harms, violins; Michael Adams, viola; Beth Rapier, cello.
A piano reduction is available. Contact DET
Across the wide waters
and delicate . . . .
Copyright © 1983 by Mary Oliver. From House of Light.
And the speck of my heart, in my shed of flesh and bone, began to sing out . . . .
Copyright © 1997 by Mary Oliver. Prose poem #3 from West Wind.
In Blackwater Woods
Look, the trees
their own bodies
of light, . . . .
Copyright © 1983 by Mary Oliver. From American Primitive.
Program NoteWhen I was asked to write a piece for soprano Karen Clift to perform at the Napa Valley’s Music in the Vineyards Festival, I intended to set poems about wine (there are surprisingly few!). In my search, I happened upon Mary Oliver’s work, and the last nine lines of “In Blackwater Woods,” spoke urgently to me. Two images from that poem—the river, and the fire—suggested the subjects of the first and second movements. “The Swan” also contains a humorous reference to Blake, prompting a quotation from my setting of Blake’s “Cradle Song,” which I wrote to celebrate the birth of Karen’s first child, Maddy. Cultural references are unusual in Oliver, where the speaker usually observes and is rocked by the experience of the natural world: inspiration arrives in the guise of wild things.
In the meantime, it was discovered that vibrant founder of Music in the Vineyards, Gail Adams, was suffering from cancer. She died while the work was being composed. To Live in This World is dedicated to her memory. It received its premiere in August of 2002, in the cave of Clos Pegase Vineyard in the Napa Valley. Music in the Vineyards called it “the emotional high point” of the season.
Mary Oliver (1935 –2019) was the author of more than ten volumes of poetry and prose, including American Primitive, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, and New and Selected Poems, which received the National Book Award.